Jean Stubbs. The Golden Crucible (1976) 287 pp.
In 1906, retired Scotland Yard Inspector John Joseph Lintott attends a London performance of the famed magician Felix Salvador. When Bela Barak, a wealthy San Franciscan, kidnaps his young assistant, Alicia—who is also his sister—Salvador solicits Lintott to pursue them. With Lintott’s daughter, Lizzie, standing in for Alicia as the magician’s assistant, they travel to America. Once in San Francisco, Lintott goes undercover and discovers that the kidnapping is part of an elaborate revenge scheme. (Salvador had an affair with Barak’s wife, Francesca, when she was a young debutante. Francesca got pregnant and had a botched abortion, rendering her both barren and outcast from society.) Lintott finally negotiates Alicia’s release from a Barbary Coast brothel and they are one their way to reunite with Salvador and Lizzie when the earthquake strikes. This novel stands apart from other earthquake mysteries in that the mystery is effectively solved before the earthquake hits. The earthquake does manage to tie up some loose ends, meting out punishments and effecting salvations that Lintott has no control over, but is really an afterthought in the main plot.
Setting: San Francisco